Published in the April 3, 2012 issue of The Eagle. This article can be found on The Eagle’s website here.
AU College Republicans and College Democrats are working to improve relations after more than a year of protests, resignations and tension.
College Democrats President-Elect Kathryn Tinker, and AUCR’s presumptive new president Josh Kaib both expressed a desire to collaborate and co-sponsor events, debates, panels and forums in the upcoming year.
“It’s important to work together,” said Kaib, a sophomore in the Kogod School of Business. “I look forward to getting the chance to meet with Kathryn and talk about next year.”
Tinker, a sophomore in the School of International Service, echoed Kaib’s hopes: “I think it’s important that AUCR and AU Dems serve as respectable ambassadors to either party and show that cooperation is indeed possible.”
Clashes between AUCR and AU Dems this year peaked after AUCR brought Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to speak in the University Club Feb. 24.
Brewer spoke for 15 minutes before protestors interrupted the Q&A session. The governor left the stage soon after the “mic-check,” The Eagle previously reported.
Among the protesters was then-AU Dems President Chris Litchfield.
After the governor’s speech, Litchfield, a junior in the School of Public Affairs, resigned as president of the AU Dems in an op-ed in the March 6 edition of The Eagle, explaining his disappointment with AUCR and his own organization.
“I resigned because I didn’t feel like the organization was doing what it should’ve been to stand up for the principles of Democratic Party,” Litchfield said in an interview with The Eagle. “But that’s not a criticism of the people in the organization, but the way the organization has developed.”
Litchfield criticized AUCR’s recent events for being politically insensitive, such as hosting a pig roast on the Quad on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the club’s posting of “Anti-Che Day” fliers posted on the first day of Latino History Month.
“I think it’s unfortunate because a lot of that editorial also attacked the Dems,” Kaib said. “Whenever you see a former president going after their own organization, it’s disappointing to see.”
Kaib also said there were “a lot of factual inaccuracies” about AUCRs in the op-ed.
Litchfield participated in Occupy protests in the fall, including a Nov. 4 incident when Occupy D.C. protesters barricaded a convention center, impeding a woman in a wheelchair from exiting the building, as The Eagle previously reported.
Political communications specialist Ed Frank posted a video on YouTube, in which Litchfield is prominently featured. The video had circulated on The Daily Caller and AU students’ social networks.
“The reason why I stepped back in a lot of ways wasn’t to concede on the things I believe, it’s because we had people busting their asses on things we cared about, and I felt pissed for them because they weren’t getting any recognition,” Litchfield told The Eagle.
The Right Wing targets Litchfield
Litchfield has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny for his involvement in protests on campus and off campus from AUCR and a conservative blog run by members of AUCR, The Right Wing.
The blog states, “The opinions expressed by the writers are not endorsed by American University, the American University College Republicans, or any other organization or political party.”
The blog’s slogan and logo reads “The Review of the American University College Republicans.”
Litchfield said he finds it “hard to believe” the blog is independent of the College Republicans.
The conservative blog ran a number of posts directly targeting Litchfield and the AU Dems, criticizing Litchfield’s role in the protests, calling his op-ed “unintentionally hilarious” and including a post entitled “Are AU Democrats a Joke?”
Kaib is editor-in-chief of “The Right Wing” and writes for the website. He wrote all of the recent Right Wing posts targeting Litchfield and AU Dems.
“Chris Litchfield had been Public Enemy No. 1 for Josh Kaib for a year, and now Josh will be president of the AU College Republicans,” Tinker said, mirroring Litchfield’s skepticism of the disclaimer. “It’s to give them the freedom to write what they want.”
“Anything we did in regard to Chris Litchfield, it was never intended to go after the Dems as a club,” Kaib said. “It was more to put the facts out there, and it wasn’t targeted against the club.”
No one has posted to the blog since March 6. Kaib wrote the last post, which focused on Litchfield’s resignation.
Kaib said he would no longer be serving as editor-in-chief of the blog due to his new role as president of AUCR and that any blogging he will do in the future will be to promote College Republican events.
Tinker and Litchfield agree there was a problem for the College Democrats when AUCR and The Right Wing started using Litchfield to represent all of AU Dems.
“I fully recognize that I don’t represent all Democrats,” Litchfield said, noting his views are “pretty far to the left.”
“Everyone in Dems leadership knows that Chris is on the periphery of the party and on the perimeter of AUCD,” Tinker said. “Everyone on the outside of the club views us as Chris Litchfield minions, which is kind of a problem for people like me, as someone who doesn’t go to Occupy.”
Tinker said she actively tries not to view herself as a spokesperson for AU Dems.
“I view myself as too much of a moderate to speak for liberal values,” she said.
AU Dems, AUCR say relations improving
Since Litchfield’s resignation, relations between AU Dems and AUCR have calmed, and club leaders seem to have accepted that they’ll agree to disagree politically.
“Disagreements are only policy and not personal,” said current AU College Republicans President Todd Carney, a junior in SPA.
Tinker agrees that the differences between political opinions don’t translate to hard feelings anymore.
“We have this great relationship now, but it’s all going to be determined by the picks for next year’s [AUCR] e-board and whether the future leadership wants to work with us,” Tinker said.
Students most recently protested Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s March 23 speech in Katzen Recital Hall.
The protesting trend frustrated Carney, he said in an interview with The Eagle in the aftermath of the protest.
“I don’t have the power or the moral authority to make them stop,” Carney said. He doesn’t have a problem with protests “as long as they’re respectful to our event or don’t disrupt it or don’t make our guest or members feel endangered.”
Kaib said he is “very open” to working with the Dems and co-sponsoring and organizing events, a sentiment which Tinker shares. Tinker said she’s also had great experiences debating and working with AU Students for Liberty through College Dems, and she hopes to take advantage of the general election to hold debates and forums with all political organizations on campus.
“I think it’ll be more charged up and there will be more events,” Carney said, but warns that the heated atmosphere means AUCRs and AU Dems will have to be more “careful” with decorum during debates.
Full Disclosure: Tinker is a staff videographer and photographer for The Eagle.